Finally Cutting the Cord

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I’ve wanted to cancel my cable television service for years. Right after Voldemort moved out, I thought it would be a good time. It wasn’t. There was far too much emotional crap flying around to deal with something as mundane as the cable package.

So I didn’t.

Then I moved and had to have all the services transferred to the new house. Now, I thought, I’ll get rid of cable. But Cox offered me a good deal on a “bundle,” so I took it.

I just got the bill for December and realized that all those stupid bundle promotional prices have expired. The bill went up by almost $100 a month. And no one even watches TV anymore. The kids stream everything on their computers or other devices. I can’t handle the news (local, national, or cable) and only watch the very occasional series like Major Crimes on TNT.

No friggin’ way am I paying more than $100/month for that.

I’ve got a Netflix subscription and Amazon Prime instant video. It turns out that I can buy episodes or entire seasons of Major Crimes from Amazon to stream for a helluva lot less than the price of even one month of service from Cox. (Although the current season is pretty lackluster and I may not even bother.) All sorts of HBO series and movies are available free through Amazon Prime. And I can purchase a Showtime subscription through almighty Amazon for less than $10 a month. Sheesh, why does anyone pay for premium channels through the cable company anymore?

I didn’t think I’d be able to get any reception without the cable box, but after disconnecting it I found that I still get cable on the downstairs TV which never had a cable box. No clue why that is. If it changes, I may buy an antenna and set that up for local stations. Or I may not. We honestly watch TV so rarely it probably isn’t worth the trouble. I’ll keep the option open and see how this goes.

Cable companies just don’t seem to care how most people are choosing to get their television entertainment now. Cox tried to charge me $75 just for “expanded” services, which included about 200 channels, many of which were music (radio stations on your TV!). Then there were charges for equipment, premium channels I didn’t ask for but were included in the “bundle,” and a slew of taxes and fees. When I told the rep to cancel all the TV services, he found another bundle that would save me a few dollars compared to their street rate, but there was no flexibility to drop premium channels I didn’t want. And I would still be paying almost $50/month more than my previous bundle. It’s crazy-making.

I just said no thanks to the whole convoluted con.

Eventually cable companies will feel enough pain from people cancelling TV services to make the reasonable and necessary changes their market is demanding. Right now, though, they’re desperate to hang on to the huge profits they’ve generated over the past decades. Greed is the bottom line. As usual.

If you’ve got any tips on antennas or essential subscriptions for replacing cable, please share! I’ve wandered around dozens of blogs over the years gathering the courage to cut the cord. It’s awesome when other people share ways to make the process less intimidating. So far it’s been painless.

Condoms for Credit Cards?

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In the past 60 days, both of my credit cards have been used online to make unauthorized purchases. My Visa was used on Groupon to purchase several iPads and some kind of Samsung tablet. My Kohls card was used to purchase a fancy coffeemaker.

Fortunately, I saw the charges within an hour of the purchases (thank God I got emails) and took action. Unfortunately, it seems retailers have taken a Wild West approach to fraud.

Groupon ignored my customer service request and has never responded to my emails. But Visa shut that shit down so the dude in Scranton, Pennsylvania won’t be receiving his stolen iPads.

And I’ll never shop Groupon again as long as I live.

Kohls was even worse. I both called and online chatted to report the fraud. Both reps assured me that the order had been cancelled and I cancelled my charge card as well. Two days later, I got an email that my Kohls order had shipped. Called again. Got read the riot act by the Fraud Department as if I should’ve called their direct line as soon as I saw the unauthorized charge.

Um, no, asshats, I called Customer Service — and they should’ve been trained well enough to transfer me to Fraud. Now there’s an investigation opened and they’ll let me know if they determine the charge was fraudulent in the next 60 days.

Huh, really? I didn’t order a coffeemaker as a gift for Jamison Morrison on Olive Street in Los Angeles, so YEAH, it’s fraud.

I’m not paying that $200 charge.

I’m also never shopping at Kohls.com again in my life.

Seriously, since when is it the consumer’s responsibility to make sure a major retailer’s servers are secure?

Lesson learned.

Use MasterCard or Visa online.

Check your Master Card or Visa charges at least weekly.

Don’t bother with store charge cards. Their liability policies pale in comparison to Visa and MasterCard.

Maybe buy gift cards (with cash) to then use online, which is a pain in the ass and can probably be hacked as well. God knows you can’t use a credit card in an actual store anymore, that data gets hacked and sold to creeps online all the time, too.

Welcome to the holiday shopping season. Watch your friggin’ wallet…wherever it is.

It’s Weird, Right?

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I’m a long way from my x’s abandonment and the drawn-out divorce. I’m close to not giving a damn about Voldemort and whatever-the-hell he does.

BUT…

Kid #1 saw Voldemort a couple of months ago and reported that his dad had bought a house with his girlfriend. Of course, Voldemort offered #1 a place to “crash,” emphasizing that his girlfriend shared the space. This was the first time Voldemort actually owned the fact that he’s hooked up, but whatever.

Then the support check arrived this week with a new return address. A rather familiar address. He bought a teeny, tiny, overpriced house across the street from the condo we lived in when #1 and #2 were born. Seriously. Right across the street. When he first left, he moved to a place within a mile of our previous home, where we lived when #3 was born. Now he lives literally across the street from another previous home.

San Diego’s not a small town. There are dozens of neighborhoods where he could live, but he’s doing a marital home greatest hits tour.

That’s weird, right?

He got exactly what he said he wanted — OUT. So why live in places we lived together? We never lived at the beach, or in the mountains, or downtown, or Mid-City, or really, I could go on and on. How ‘bout ya try those?

I’m thinking of offering the girlfriend my old clothes and shoes. Y’know, since she’s got my old husband and neighborhoods.

The Math’s The Easy Part

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I’m taking my last college math class, Social Science Statistics, this semester at my local community college (cheaper than SDSU where I’m taking my major classes). I had been told that Statistics is all word problems and being a word problem savant, figured it would be right up my alley.

Kinda yes, kinda no.

The math is fairly straightforward. So far it’s all dictated by formulas which make the calculations easier. And as a bonus, the professor allows each student one full page of notes to use in exams. Sweet.

Unfortunately, this professor is incredibly careless in her explanations. For example, when explaining how to calculate range, she said, “Subtract the highest score from the lowest score.” Well, wait. Range expressed as a negative number? That’s not what the textbook explained.

When several students expressed confusion, she reiterated the incorrect formula until finally yelling at us, “Simply subtract the lowest score from the highest score!” Yeah, that’s what we thought, but that’s not what you said. Sheesh.

I almost came to blows with her over order of operations. I pissed her off so much that she told me to ask a math professor. “Sure,” I responded. “No problem.” (I have a great relationship with my former algebra instructor.) Guess that was the wrong thing to say because her response was, “No. I will ask a math professor.”

Yeah, okay, but order of operations is still Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction (PEMDAS). Doesn’t matter which one of us asks a math professor.

I feel like the students are all teaching ourselves statistics at this point. It’s frustrating to try to follow a lecture given by a person who doesn’t listen to her own words. Nobody expects her to be perfect; we all misspeak, but she doesn’t realize what she’s said and then gets mad when we’re confused.

Oh yeah, she lapses into Spanish about a third of the time, so that’s not helpful.

Somehow, some way, I’ve clawed my way to the top of the class, though.  I’m bound and determined to get through this class.

Thank God it’s my last math class. I really can’t hold it together much past next week. My give-a-damn is completely worn out.

Juror #11

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False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing.” Joseph de Maistre

 
I get summoned for jury duty a lot. And every time I show up for jury duty, I get selected. Fair-minded or feeble-minded, I don’t know what the lawyers see in me.

Back before kids, when the California laws on jury service were different, I got summoned for two weeks every other year and I served on juries the entire two weeks. I was always picked. I’ve been on criminal trial juries (grand theft auto, assault with a deadly weapon) and civil juries (mental competency, medical malpractice). I can’t even remember all the juries on which I’ve served. It’s practically my second (third?) career.

This isn’t like elementary school kickball teams where you’re sad not to be chosen. I’d prefer to be passed over for jury service.

Alas, I am not.

After kids, I was able to wiggle out of serving because I homeschooled the kids and had no back-up due to my ex-husband being an asshole. Okay, he was employed, but he was also an asshole.

This past summer, I received my almost annual summons for jury duty and had no legitimate reason to be excused. My last minor child is now in high school so I had to go. And my jury selection streak remains unbroken.

I was assigned almost immediately to a courtroom and despite my desperate prayers, I wasn’t dismissed. I became juror #11 on a bullsh*t trial for misdemeanor reckless driving.

Srsly, WTF?

Why does California have a jury trial for a misdemeanor traffic violation? It’s an absurd waste of time and resources. It took more than four hours to get 12 acceptable jurors and two alternates. I made a friend/lunch buddy with juror #2 and was damn near inconsolable when she was dismissed late in the game. She left the jury box, turned at the courtroom door and sadly waved good-bye to me. It was heartbreaking. I almost cried.

Juror #2 was my bright spot in a sea of boring, arrogant, and stupid.

We sat through a day and a half of testimony about the defendant’s reckless driving (he went 80 in a 30mph zone and didn’t pull over when the cop flashed his lights and chirped his siren). The whole time, I was thinking, “You gotta be kidding me. What are we doing? Why didn’t this guy just pay his fine?”

Then we went to the jury room and I got another lesson in humanity’s utter stupidity.

First, no one listened to the judge’s instructions. Jurors are triers of fact. Jurors are not investigators. But ya know what? These idiot jurors immediately started talking about the road on which the defendant drove 50 friggin’ miles per hour over the speed limit and they didn’t think it was reckless ‘cuz he didn’t hit anybody. But even if he had, it was late at night and only hookers and drug dealers were out. (Apparently, hookers and drug dealers deserve to be mowed down by some random guy doing 80.)  And, hey, that street’s pretty flat and straight, so 80mph is a-okay.

Then the next day, a juror came back and informed us that she had driven the route and the timelines didn’t match up.

I lost my sh*t.

Jurors are triers of effing fact. Facts are what’s been presented in evidence in the courtroom. Jurors are specifically and repeatedly told not to go to the scene, not to investigate, not to diddle around. This jury ignored the judge’s instructions. Some members took it upon themselves to play CSI: San Diego and other members praised them for it.

Oh, but the cop’s testimony was torn apart. “He couldn’t remember when he turned the lights and siren on! He’s not reliable!” For the record, the cop couldn’t remember if he hit the button in the 500 block or the 300 block of the street. At 80mph does it really matter?

It was a complete goat rope. I fought for the law, reading the jury instructions out loud, repeatedly. No one cared. They were convinced they knew best.

I was in the minority on the verdict vote (9 not guilty, 3 guilty). I was bullied by the majority who based their opinions on personal experience, fantasy, and perceived punishment…not the law or the judge’s orders. “Hey, I speed, but I’m not reckless. Give the guy a break.” The other two guilty jurors broke and voted guilty within 15 minutes. Ultimately I caved, too. I changed my vote and got the hell outta there. The defendant got a free pass.

 
I’m ashamed of myself for being a part of this mess. I briefly considered asking the deputy to take a note to the judge about the juror misconduct that was running rampant, but the foreperson had to send the note. I wasn’t the foreperson. I wasn’t willing to throw down with the other 11 people for a misdemeanor traffic violation.

All I could think was that the other jurors were absolutely not following the law, but patted themselves on the back for “doing their civic duty.” I just wanted out of that room and away from these arrogant idiots who watch far too much television.

Because I “served” on this jury, I won’t be called again for three years. And when I’m summoned in the future, I plan to tell the lawyers I absolutely do not believe in the jury system anymore. I don’t trust my fellow citizens to follow the damn law. I’ve witnessed firsthand the rationalizations people make to justify illegal behavior while serving on a jury. I don’t think we can be trusted to do the right thing. And I was the bitch for trying to uphold the actual statutes.

All of us are stuck with the society only some of us deserve. But I guess I do deserve it because I let it happen.

Sh*t I Don’t Miss About Miss Husband, Part II

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Awhile back my attorney asked me if I missed my ex-husband; my answer was an immediate and resounding “No.”  Here are more reasons why.

 

I don’t miss the tantrums he threw when he ran out of Diet Mountain Dew.  I must have dozed off during the part of the wedding vows that said it was my responsibility to keep him afloat in the stuff.  That damn neon green soda made me jumpy for years — and I never drank a drop of it.

 

I don’t miss the way he never put a new roll of toilet paper on the roller bar in any given bathroom.  We had three kids, and those kids were all toddlers at one time.  How many full rolls of toilet paper do you suppose were tossed into the toilet because he left them on the counter instead of putting them on the roller thing?

 

A lot.

 

And who do you suppose fished them out of the drink?

 

Yeah, not him.

 

When the kids outgrew throwing rolls of toilet paper into the toilet bowl, there were always the cats.  Know what a loose roll of t.p. is to a cat?

 

Prey.

 

Prey to be pounced upon and killed/shredded all over the bathroom.

 

 

I don’t miss the empty beer bottles and cans left lying on the coffee table and floor around the family room sofa every morning.  This was a bigger problem when the kids were little as I was always worried one of them would try to drink the last little bit left in a can.  It was like living in a frat house.

 

I don’t miss the thunk of my stomach whenever he came home from work.

 

I don’t miss the dread I felt when I’d pull onto our street and see his car in front of the house because he came home early from work.

 

I don’t miss knocking on the (open) door to the computer room and pausing to give him a chance to pull up his pants and minimize the porn video on the computer.  (I gave up telling him to close the door, for G—‘s sake, we have kids in the house.  He never did.)

 

I don’t miss hating the summer because he didn’t work and was home for three months straight.  Griping about the Diet Mountain Dew, playing World of Warcraft, and watching internet porn.

 

Most of all, I don’t miss MY learned helplessness and martyrdom.  I recently realized that when I got married I had a mental movie of gender role expectations.  I really did, however unconsciously, expect my ex-husband to take care of the things my father did.  Wheeling the trash cans to the curb; dealing with whatever bugs and rodents made their way into the house; the taxes, all of them; the cars, from maintenance to registration; making sure all the doors were closed and locked every night.

 

My ex-husband didn’t do any of those things, even after I asked.  It took me awhile to come to terms with the fact that if I wanted those things done (or I didn’t want to get thrown in jail for tax evasion), I needed to do them myself.  And while it turned out that I was perfectly capable of doing all that and more, I resented the hell out of it.  I martyred myself to his indifference.

 

It’s taken some time for me to settle into my competence, even though I was doing a yeoman’s job when I was married.  What I did wasn’t validated and I allowed myself to feel “less than” and angry as a result.  Now I just get stuff done and move on to whatever’s next.

 

I don’t miss him. Not even a little bit.

The Fitnessgram and Fat Shaming

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California requires two years of Physical Education to graduate from high school. In one of those required two years, students must pass the fitnessgram. Failure to pass the fitnessgram in two years results in being required to take PE all four years of high school or until you pass. The fitnessgram is a series of tests including push-ups, sit-ups, and running a timed mile.

Kid #3 took regular PE last year and passed the fitnessgram. She had friends, though, who really struggled. I was horrified to hear the requirements, at least one of which was based on BMI. Kid #3 is petite; she’s 5’3” and less than 115 pounds. For comparison, I’m 5’6” and in the neighborhood of 135, so very average. I couldn’t run a mile unless someone was chasing me with an axe, and even then I’d probably try to talk them to death. A number of #3’s friends have higher BMIs and they were required to run a mile far faster than #3. A kid’s BMI determined how much time they had to run a mile. The higher the BMI, the faster the mile.

WTF?

I have so many problems with this example of physical fitness/healthy lifestyle modelling. First, these are kids. Their bodies are growing and running amok on hormones. The girls with higher BMIs are frequently what we’d call “curvy” in adults. (I don’t want to get creepy here.) Some parts are growing a bit disproportionately to others. And the boys who are a bit chubby now? They often get another growth spurt in their late teens and everything evens out.

So what are we teaching them with all this emphasis on BMI at age 14 or 15?

Nothing good.

Again, these are kids. So if they’re chubby/overweight or even obese, how much control do they truly have? They aren’t generally in charge of buying groceries, much less meal planning and prep. They’re at the mercy of whatever the adults in their household do. And if those adults are watching every single penny? Well, maybe the leaner cuts of meat are out of the question. Maybe potatoes are more cost effective than broccoli. Hell, maybe there are issues with having reliable appliances or paying for utilities. So in addition to fat shaming, these kids are subjected to economic snobbery.

It’s just not helpful.

I understand there’s a childhood obesity problem in the U.S. and that problem ripples out to self-esteem, school performance, and other social issues. I get it, I do. But drawing attention to a kid’s BMI in front of an entire PE class isn’t going to help solve that problem. Kid #3 had ZERO instruction on nutrition and healthy eating in PE last year. It was all about BMI and running a mile in less than 9 minutes.

WTF?

#3 absolutely despised PE last year, and since she passed the fitnessgram, she was able to take Dance for PE this year. Thank heavens, because her dance teacher is a-maz-ing. She’s five months pregnant (and round, like pregnant people tend to be); she’s still fit and strong. She’s a great example of health and vitality for the students. She talks about nutrition. She offers encouragement, enthusiasm, and a great role model to the students. She leads by example, not BMI.

Yeah, we’ve got an obesity health problem in the U.S., but shaming teens for their bodies isn’t helping. We can do better.

Don’t Kill the Magic

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I’m not a spontaneous person. Maybe that’s a result of being a mom or maybe it’s the decades of being responsible for every single detail in my married life, but I tend toward plans and lists. So when a chump friend texted me a couple of Friday afternoons ago asking if kid #3 and I wanted to go to a show at the House of Blues that evening, my first reaction was nope, no way.

But I texted kid #3 at school and she was up for a night out, so we met up with my friend and braved downtown San Diego after dark. I used to work at the headquarters of a local bank, which turned out to be right around the corner from the House of Blues. (Tangent:  My former employer sold out to Wells Fargo 20+ years ago and Wells Fargo sold the headquarters building to a hotel chain.  Seeing that majestic building now a hotel always makes me sad.) The House of Blues is located in the old Woolworth building right around the corner from my old employer. That blew my mind. It took me most of my single glass of wine and half an appetizer to put the location together in my mind. All the tattoo parlors threw me off.

Because this was a spur of the moment outing, the only tickets available were general admission — standing on the dance floor directly in front of the stage. Since it was an all ages show, adults over 21 were tagged with tight, bright orange wristbands. There was booze at the bar along with popcorn and soda from carts. Kid #3 ran into a school friend completely by chance which worked out well for us and for her friend’s parents.

The opening act was the very handsome and talented Danny Mercer.

He was charming and funny. The headliner was a Canadian band, Magic! (They spell their name that way, complete with exclamation point. No clue why.) My friend and I had a great time during the opening act, standing room on the dance floor was fine. We could dance and enjoy the show without banging into other people.

Should’ve known that wouldn’t last. Just before Magic! came on, the crowd doubled in both size and chemical enhancement. At least half the people there were parents with underage kids, a quarter were 21-30 year olds, and the remainder were middle-aged people sans kids. Guess who was obnoxiously drunk?

Yep, the middle-aged folks without kids.

Guess who was well-mannered and best behaved? Yep, the 21-30 crowd.  Although they never put away their phones.

We got trapped between two older couples who were f*cked up and dancing like fools — arms flailing, hips and purses flying around with zero regard for the rest of the crowd. The statuesque blond next to me was a man-eating cougar hellbent on getting a band member’s attention, any band member. She also spilled beer all over my friend’s shoes. Not attractive behavior.

Here’s what I learned from this adventure:

1. I’m too damn old for general admission/standing for three hours at a loud concert. (Get seats next time.)
2. Clubs are really frickin’ loud. (Bring earplugs. Kid #3’s friend did this. Smart girl.)
3. This would’ve been more fun after a couple of glasses of wine. (Next time, hire Uber. Don’t drive.)
4. Keep your spoons together in public, for the sake of your dignity. All the social niceties do not fall away just because it’s dark and loud. (Less for me, more for the midlife crisis couples desperate to prove their hipness.)
5. Even surrounded by drunks/stoners, it was a ton of fun. Spontaneity won’t kill me. Try more new things.

I’m glad I didn’t go with my knee-jerk “no” reaction to my friend’s invitation. We were both uncomfortable going downtown on a Friday night, but together we were able to have a great time. Kid #3 went to her first concert and even met up with a friend. Moving out of my comfort zone didn’t kill me. My goodness, what’s next?

 

Good-Bye August, Don’t Let the Door Hit You in the Ass

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Gah, August was a nightmare I’m hoping to wake up from in September.

Kid #1 totaled his car. It truly was an accident, but the car’s gone. He needs a replacement; I wonder if Voldemort has a spare lying around?

Kid #2 had emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder, then developed an infection (hospital-induced, I think) requiring more treatment.

Kid #3 has had ongoing school schedule issues, with three different World History teachers and (hooray!) a new math teacher.  She has to keep going to the office to get her schedule printed because she’s not sure where she’s supposed to be at any given point in the day.

I’m glad to see the end of this August.

I started the month with jury duty.  I’ve done a lot of jury duty, but this one took the cake.  I’m still trying to write a post about it wherein I don’t come off as a foaming at the mouth nutjob.  It may be impossible.

My classes started last week, kicking off the (God willing) last year of college for me. Unfortunately, I’m taking two required courses: Statistics and The Writing of Criticism. Not gonna lie, I wouldn’t have chosen either of these classes.

I signed up for Statistics instead of another round of Algebra because a) it takes care of my general education math requirement, and b) I was told Statistics is all word problems. I’m a word problem savant, so I figured I could do fairly well with only moderate struggle.

We’ll see. There’s a whole lot of terminology and calculations, and we’ve already had two quizzes. Sigh.

English 508W is simply required of all English majors at SDSU. The class and textbooks sound utterly pinky-pointed-up-on-a-teacup pretentious to me. The first section is “literary theory,” which includes Marxist, feminist/gender, psychoanalytical, and postcolonial theory. Dear heaven. Fortunately, the text is written by Terry Eagleton and he seems to be a smart-ass. Fingers crossed.

Mixed in with the literary theory is grammar, and I love grammar. I’m hoping to rack up some points on the grammar quizzes in anticipation of a lower score on the 10 friggin’ page research paper due in December.

Upside: August is over. And, hey, long weekend!

High School Math is a Mess

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The adoption of the Common Core standards in public schools seems to have led to an identity crisis in high school math instruction. At kid #3’s school, pre-algebra, algebra (1 and 2 as far as I can tell), and geometry are no longer offered as separate classes. Now it’s Integrated Math I, II, III, and IV. Get through those and you’re on to Pre-Calculus, Calculus, AP Calculus. Well, that’s what I hear. I don’t expect to ever have firsthand or parental experience with Calculus.

From what I’ve seen of her assignments, Integrated Math smooshes everything together, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not a great way to learn brand new concepts. We used a fair amount of geometry in the two college algebra classes I took last year. But it was the easy, straightforward geometry: the Pythagorean Theorem, in particular. For students who’ve never learned the Pythagorean Theorem it wouldn’t have been so easy or straightforward. It would be hard to recognize the Theorem as a separate piece of geometry if you’d only ever seen it used as a part of algebra. I think.

It’s entirely possible that I’m just used to seeing things in the same way that I learned them. Kid #3 struggles with math and the integration is really not helping her. The math teachers all appear to need a sabbatical; they’re frustrated and tired. Last year’s teacher sent out angry emails to parents whenever he reached the end of his rope — which resulted in frantic text exchanges at school like this one:

Me: “Mr R is p*ssed. Show me your homework as soon as you get home. You did it, right??? You said you did it!!!”

Kid #3: “Calm down Moooommm. My team was the only one that did the homework.”

Oh yeah, the math classes are divided into teams which theoretically work together to learn. Kid #3 has math first period (just like last year) and nobody’s working together on anything at 7:10am.

It’s a goatrope.

This year’s teacher, Mrs. C, has a voice straight out of the Charlie Brown cartoons. Robotic with a side of snark. And she was voted “Most Intimidating Teacher” three years in a row.

It’s shaping up to be another long year mathematically.

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